Tomorrow, the day after First Friday, is the 91st birthday of artist and Father of the Crossroads, Jim Leedy. Following his encounters with abstract-expressionist painters Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline in New York in the late 1950s, he began experimenting with abstract abstract-expressionist ceramics, and became well-known for his skills with clay. In the 1980s, he began buying buildings in the dilapidated Crossroads area of Downtown (nobody actually called it “Crossroads” back then), and encouraged others to do the same, with an eye toward renting space to artists and opening showplaces for artworks created by those tenants. As more artists, developers, and business owners entered the area, it became known as the foremost arts district in Kansas City. For his contributions to the area, the Crossroads is sometimes referred to as “Leedyville.”
The Mayor’s Christmas Tree arrived at Crown Center Thursday, as it has every year since 1973. Prior to that, the tree—the 100-foot symbol of the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund—had been located for 14 years at Gillham Park. The first Mayor’s Christmas Tree was placed in Municipal Auditorium Plaza Park by Mayor H. Roe Bartle in 1957, but the tradition of mayoral charity began long before that—1878 to be exact—originating with Mayor George Shelley. Mayor Shelley used his own money to buy food and firewood for less fortunate members of the Kansas City community. Diane Euston of the Martin City Telegraph and The New Santa Fe Trailer blog wrote in-depth about the history of the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund last year:
In related news, today is opening day for Crown Center Ice Terrace, now in its 49th year. It’s probably too late if you’re just now learning about it here, but the rink is celebrating opening day with free skating, coffee, and hot chocolate from 6 to 9 am this morning. For more information about the ice terrace, visit:
In the 18th & Vine District, Adam Jones is restoring the building at 1819 Vine, which was home to Ruthelle Winkfield and her beauty salon business. In its updated version, Ruthelle’s will be a coffee shop in the morning, a barbecue house during the day, and a club at night. Also, as the new Kansas City Jazz Hall of Fame, the facility will be filled with historic artifacts and newly commissioned art pieces, including works by artist Cliff Baldwin, on display beginning today at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center.
Atlanta’s World Series MVP, Jorge Soler, is not only a former Kansas City Royal—he also is a former Kansas City downtown resident:
Who knew? Kansas City’s iconic New York Life Building with its eagle atop the entry of the brick-and-brownstone high-rise has an identical twin in Omaha.
As mentioned previously, today is First Friday in the Crossroads and West Bottoms. Here’s a rundown of activities from the Kansas City Star:
Artful City: One weekly selection from a Downtown artist, gallery, or museum
Quick Clip: The city in motion—just a few seconds at a time
Video Clip: One of our favorite blocks in one of our favorite neighborhoods: Columbus Park
Downtown Lens: A single image depicting life around the Loop
Give a friendly Downtown-Kansas City welcome to….
The American Royal/UPHA National Championship Horse Show, Nov. 8-13. The best Saddlebreds, Hackney Ponies and Road Horses in the country travel to Kansas City to compete for national championship titles. Ticketed sessions start next week at 6:30pm on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. Be sure to attend The National Championship Stake Night (Saturday night), where the competition comes to an exciting close as National Champions are crowned in 14 classes.
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